How I Cracked the Code of Giving the Perfect Gift

My mother is famously impossible to shop for. She’s the kind of mother who scolds you for spending your hard-earned money on her—even though she carried, birthed, and raised you. Admittedly, I’m not great at giving gifts, so you can imagine the kind of predicament I find myself in every year. A couple of Decembers ago, though, I got my mom a Hannukah gift that she loved so much that I now feel compelled to share my formula that allowed me to shop for the unshoppable.

A bit about my mother: She has impeccable taste, to the point that she refers to herself in certain circles (read: my dad) as “The Gift Fairy.” Buying for her is a tall order, but when I stumbled across an Hermès pop-up book, I knew I’d found the perfect present. The book—whose cover is the brand’s iconic orange—explains the history of their scarves via 3D pop-ups. Best of all, while it gestures at unattainable luxury, the book is quite possibly the cheapest item on Hermès’s website, coming in at a very reasonable $35. 

The reaction? Genuine delight. The Gift Fairy hath succeeded. 


Pop-Up Hermès book in English

From a purely scientific perspective, I’ve distilled the elements of what made this the perfect gift. Follow below if you’d like to recreate this same winning formula for your discerning loved ones:

  1. It’s unusual. While a lot of us may be tempted to pick up a gift card from our giftee’s favorite store, I’d encourage you to try and capture a small piece of luxury, if you are able to. My mom is a longtime Hermès fan, cherishing her perfumes and displaying old boxes on her shelves. But it’s also not a staple in her wardrobe, making a piece from her favorite brand all the more special. To gift something that isn’t so quotidian made it all the more exciting—no matter the fact that it wasn’t a $500 silk scarf.
  2. It’s utilitarian. The wonderful thing about our coffee table books is that they reflect our sensibilities. (Anyone who says they don’t painstakingly curate a collection of effortlessly cool books to show guests that they have fabulous, eclectic taste is a LIAR!) I think this book worked so well in part because it’s something that can be shown off, if so desired. It’s a great conversation piece, and something that can see every day.
  3. It has a touch of whimsy. Who would ever buy themselves an Hermès pop-up book? The point of gifts is that they aren’t something that the person would opt to spend their own money on, so why not lean into the silliness? Pop-up books fall out of use by the time most of us hit kindergarten, so mixing a childlike item with a chic subject matter is the perfect combination.